By Graham Dunbar, The Associated Press on December 22, 2023.
JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (AP) – Manchester City was just too good and a bit lucky for overmatched Fluminense in the Club World Cup final by winning 4-0 and taking a fifth title in 2023 on Friday.
City led after just 40 seconds to make it a match mostly free of tension. JuliÃ¡n Ãlvarez followed up fastest to meet a rebound off a post from Nathan Aké’s shot.
An own goal in the 27th by Fluminense captain Nino decided the game long before Phil Foden’s goal in the 72nd, guiding an Ãlvarez pass into an open net. Ãlvarez struck again in the 88th.
It gave City a first Club World Cup title and Europe a 16th in 17 editions of FIFA’s competition for continental champions.
City cruised to a second easy win in four balmy days in Saudi Arabia even without injured superstars Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne. They also missed City’s semifinals win over Urawa Red Diamonds on Tuesday.
Their expected absences could help explain the empty seats among a crowd of 52,601 at King Abdullah Sports City, the Jeddah stadium which is planned to be used at the 2034 World Cup.
Victory made Pep Guardiola the first coach to win the Club World Cup with three different teams. He led Barcelona to titles in 2009 and 2011, then Bayern Munich in 2013 with a team that won the Champions League under outgoing coach Jupp Heynckes.
Guardiola celebrated calmly by walking across to console Fluminense coach Fernando Diniz with a handshake and arm on his shoulder.
At the same time, a melee broke out between players in the Fluminense half of the field with 40-year-old defender Felipe Melo involved and confronted by City captain Kyle Walker. Guardiola was later hugging and smiling with Felipe Melo.
Fluminense started with six players born in the 1980s, and bristled with perceived disrespect when told on Thursday of British media drawing attention to the age of its veteran team. City’s oldest player in the starting lineup, 33-year-old Walker, was born in May 1990.
Fluminense’s most celebrated player, Marcelo, exited after one hour to warm applause and a handshake on the touchline with City substitute Mateo KovaÄiÄ‡, his former teammate at Real Madrid.
One of Marcelo’s first touches in the game was an unwise long pass from defense that let Aké advance in space to shoot.
Ãlvarez was alone in the goalmouth to stoop and score with his chest. The Argentina forward’s first action had been to take a sturdy shove in the back from Felipe Melo’s aerial challenge.
The bounce of the ball was unkind again to Fluminense when Nino slid in to block Foden’s pass across the goalmouth, and the ball looped beyond goalkeeper Fabio’s reach. The attack came from a piercing change of pace in Rodri’s pass to Foden.
The final paired clubs that played in their national third-tier divisions as recently as 1999.
City has since become the club with the highest declared annual revenue in world soccer, banking $890 million in its treble-winning 2022-23 season with a salary bill of $530 million. Fluminense has said it expects to earn $74 million this year.
The gulf in wealth and purchasing power was clear on the field and likely will grow before both teams play at the relaunched Club World Cup in June-July 2025.
That 32-team tournament in the United States will have 12 European teams and six from South America, each potentially earning tens of millions in FIFA prize money.
In the third-place game earlier in Jeddah, African champion Al Ahly of Egypt won 4-2 against Urawa, the Asian champion from Japan. Those teams also will be at the expanded 2025 edition.
AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer